External Affairs & Defense Minister Jaswant Singh
Interview on CNN Q & A
October 2, 2001
4:43 P.M. EDT
ZAIN VERJEE: Mr. Minister, Welcome to show, good to have you with us. Let me
start by asking you, you talked to President Bush What did you talk about?
JASWANT SINGH: Well we talked about the current situation of course. And we
talked about this common challenge to humanity. I had occasion to call on Vice-President
Mr. Cheney as well, earlier this morning and to both of them, I shared a view
point that, in fact what Tuesday's 11th of September does, is to create
as definitive and defining an ideological divide in the world, as was created
upon the onset of the Cold War. And this is as challenging a task to the human
community, which believes in certain values of democracy and freedom and free
speech and a certain way of life of men, women and children. That, they must
surely stand up in an unambiguous fashion, in this long fight against terrorism
until it is removed in its totality from the face of globe.
ZAIN VERJEE: Did the Unites States present you with any evidence or proof of
the connection to Al-Qaeda or of Osama bin Laden with the attacks of September
JASWANT SINGH: In fact it is the other way round, of course we spoke about what
the United States has, which I'm not at the moment free to share
ZAIN VERJEE: But did they show you any proof?
JASWANT SINGH: Yes indeed and we have more proof to show in that regard to the
United States of America than United States has to share with us.
ZAIN VERJEE: Are you convinced that Osama bin Laden is definitely behind those
JASWANT SINGH: Oh yea I'm absolutely convinced that Al Qaeda which is the fountain
head of great many other organizations is behind all this and that Osama bin
Laden has been financing along with others not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan.
ZAIN VERJEE: You also delivered a letter to President Bush from Prime Minister
Vajpayee. Here's what a part of it had to say: "Incidents of this kind
raise questions for our security. Which, as the democratically elected leader
of India, I have to address in our supreme national interest. Pakistan must
understand that there is a limit to the patience of the people of India."
A direct threat to Pakistan, sir?
JASWANT SINGH: Not I mean its as specific as one can get under the
circumstances. This is deliberately engineered, Jaish-e-Mohammed which is responsible
for that act is controlled directly by the regime in Pakistan as also by Al-Qaeda.
And you cannot continue to challenge India and continue to test its patience.
Principally with the objective of throwing out of gear the present international
effort against Al-Qaeda and terrorism. And it is necessary for the Prime Minister
to say what he has said. There were two letters really. There's an earlier letter
which I was carrying and which I delivered. There is a second letter, which
really was letter sent to me and through quick transmission after the incident
on the state legislature of Jammu & Kashmir. And, please if I might say
so the state legislature is a representative of democracy. It was not simply
an attack against a physical object only. It was an attack on the representation
of the democratic functioning of the state of Jammu & Kashmir functions.
ZAIN VERJEE: Ok, I would like to bring in something that someone on the streets
of Delhi wanted to ask you. Please take a listen.
Man on the street: What I would like to ask Mr Jaswant Singh is that why don't
you directly ask the American government about the terrorists camps if you know
where they are, why don't you ask them directly, these are where the camps are
and go for them. And if the Americans are hesitant then why doesn't India go
on its on and let the Americans at least support us from behind.
ZAIN VERJEE: Mr Singh, there's the question. Your response, you said you had
the proof , if you do then why don't you go and get them.
JASWANT SINGH: Well we don't want to overload the present agenda. We have already
shared with the United States of America all evidence about these camps. I can
perfectly understand what my citizen on the street has asked me via CNN. This
is a question that I'm asked as a democratic representative in Parliament too
and will be asked. It is a legitimate question. We don't do it because we are
at the moment with great patience, permitting the international community to
address itself to the immediate which is the Al-Qaeda. And we are confident
that simply addressing the Al-Qaeda will not solve the problem, until all manifestations
of terrorists and terroristic activity are eliminated and we have shared these
views and this evidence with the United States of America.
ZAIN VERJEE: Sir, in other words you want the United States to deal with the
issue of Kashmir and you accuse Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism.
JASWANT SINGH: No,
ZAIN VERJEE: Is that what you are implying?
JASWANT SINGH: Not at all. What I'm saying is that United States has a priority
in addressing itself to Al-Qaeda. With or without United States of America we
have been meeting the challenge of terrorism in the state of Jammu & Kashmir,
we will continue to do so. We will greatly appreciate if the international community
and United States what we are doing and shares what we are doing. But is not
like asking the United States of America to pluck my chestnuts out of the fire.
ZAIN VERJEE: Question again sir, for you from the streets of Delhi. Please take
Man on the street: Our aircraft was hijacked and because of that this person
Maulana Masood Azhar, he was released or so many people are dying in our own
country. The moment this air-crash happened in America, the way they have taken
action, the way they have taken things so seriously, so aggressively. Why India
can't take that?
ZAIN VERJEE: Referring there to the hijacking there in 1999. What's your response
JASWANT SINGH: Oh I was very much a part of that
ZAIN VERJEE: No, no your response to the question sir (Jaswant Singh:
I am ) why didn't India take any action aggressively?
JASWANT SINGH: Aggressive action, we have all these years. If by aggressive
action it is expected of India to mount an assault on Pakistan, then it would
in fact sub-serve the purpose of terrorists. I have to create an international
climate, which I think I have managed to do. Once that international climate
is created then we will work jointly for the elimination of terrorism.
ZAIN VERJEE: Sir, as you yourself pointed out, you were certainly a part of
dealing with the hijackers in 1999. But, you also agreed to let go the leader
of the group Jaish-e-Mohammed that claims the responsibility for the attack
yesterday in Srinagar, Maulana Masood Azhar. That's the same man your government
released, because of negotiations on that hijacking. So, in fact the Indian
government encouraged terrorism by letting him go.
JASWANT SINGH: It is always an extremely difficult choice. Your judgment on
what the Indian government did or did not do is based on the better hindsight
of retrospect. At that moment the government was faced with the grim possibility
of a hundred and seventy eight odd passengers being blown up, that was the end
ZAIN VERJEE: But doesn't that still show India's somewhat weak response to terror?
JASWANT SINGH: it was not a weak response. If you recollect what the terrorists
had started with, was demanding a release of 36 of those that were in prison
and some 360 billion dollars and a great many other things. And we whittled
that down to three, and 3 for 178 I understand, was a difficult choice for the
Government of India to make.
ZAIN VERJEE: But one of those three killed at least 38 yesterday.
JASWANT SINGH: Yes he did and soon after he reached Pakistan, he established..
not only sought shelter in Pakistan he
ZAIN VERJEE: But my point here is, the Indian government here let him go.
JASWANT SINGH: Indian government had no option at that moment.
ZAIN VERJEE: So do you regret your choice?
JASWANT SINGH: Ah.. for any government any governance, it is always a difficult
decision to take. Here are 178 lives and the possibility of wrong that the release
of Masood Azhar would cause in time, over time. And under those circumstances,
I do believe, which were the most difficult circumstances possible, Kandhar,
the aircraft was possibly at the safest place that they could have sought anywhere
in the world. And under those circumstances the government acted correctly.
ZAIN VERJEE: Certainly as you say, a most difficult choice for the Indian government.
But, one nonetheless that perhaps persuaded that the hijackers that a big democracy
like India is really a paper tiger and therefore the United States can also
be a target. So, yes it was hard choice, but there were severe consequences
to that. And India was part of creating those consequences.
JASWANT SINGH: I disagree with that .
ZAIN VERJEE: Why?
JASWANT SINGH: For example for you to say that India was a paper tiger. United
States of America for all these years continued to think and work on the basis
that they the terrorist activity, that is now concentrated in certain parts
of the world, will never visit the United States of America. I continue to tell
my friends, it will, mark my words. We have been fighting this battle almost
alone. And for you, now to say that because we have taken certain steps therefore
the Tuesday September 11th incident took place is really to stretch the point.
Instead of pointing your finger to where the blame really lies, to put your
finger and blame a democracy
ZAIN VERJEE: Then where does the blame really lie?
JASWANT SINGH: The blame really lies with countries that continue to encourage,
ZAIN VERJEE: So you are blaming Pakistan in other words?
JASWANT SINGH: Without any doubt. There's no ambiguity in that. How can Jaish-e-Mohammed
come about in Pakistan, but for the support of the Pakistan establishment? How
can the Taliban have existed for all these years but for the fact.
ZAIN VERJEE: But Pakistan says they only offer moral support and they're supporting
JASWANT SINGH: They themselves know it does not wash. They know there is evidence
now that the global community has. A state that becomes the sponsor of terrorism that
is why we do not wish to do anything to further complicate the challenge that
the United States has to meet. A problem cannot be a solution. And a country
that is a part of the problem is now being attempted to be used by the United
States of America towards a solution. Good Luck.
ZAIN VERJEE: Last question for you sir, what steps can you take to remove terrorism
from India and what policies can you suggest very briefly and that a question
from someone in India.
JASWANT SINGH: It is, because for a democracy to combat terrorism the continuous
recourse to ..and the law of the land must prevail there must be no draconian
measures is always difficult, is always time consuming it tests the patience
of the country, it also test the resolve. There are no instant answers, like
instant coffee and therefore what India has to continue to do with added resolve
what it has done for the last twenty years.
ZAIN VERJEE: India's Minister for External Affairs And Defense, sir, Thank you
Mr Jaswant Singh for joining us on Q&A.